COVID 19 Update

These guidelines supersede all previous guidelines issued from the Diocese. Legal requirements are subject to change. Details are available at https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/ and at https://www.worksafe.tas.gov.au/. Every effort is made to ensure that these guidelines are consistent with Government advice and directives. If there is inconsistency, the government directives take precedence.

Update: 28 June 2022

The relaxation of some of the last Covid-19 public health restrictions, provides an opportunity for us to re-introduce the common cup with our communion services.

Use of the common cup is not compulsory, and an alternative option should be provided (e.g. individual cups, or pre-intinction of the bread). Communion in one kind only is not consistent with the proper administration of the Lord’s Supper and is to be avoided. Intinction of bread by the communicant is no longer allowed

To continue to provide as safe an environment as possible, please observe the following guidelines:

  • Church attendance: In accordance with current Public Health advice, people with active symptoms of COVID must remain in isolation. Those who are close contacts of a COVID case within the previous seven days should avoid social gatherings, which includes church functions.
  • Hand sanitiser: should be available at the church entrance, with signs encouraging people to use it. Hand sanitiser should be used before and after communion by those preparing, handling or administering the sacraments.
  • Masks: Mask wearing is no longer mandated by Public Health in any setting. However congregational members are encouraged to continue to wear face masks to reduce the spread of COVID 19, particularly when singing.
  • Administering communion: to reduce the risk of spreading COVID 19 during Holy Communion, those who are preparing or distributing the bread and common cup should:
    • Sanitise hands before touching any of the elements; and
    • wear a face mask
    • use the purificator, preferably a linen cloth, by wiping the rim of the chalice inside and out with a clean part of the purificator between each communicant,
  • Reception of communion: No pressure should be placed on members of the congregation to receive the sacraments if they feel unable to do so.

Physical distancing during reception of the sacraments is encouraged.

  • Disposal of unused elements: While it is a prayer book rubric to consume the remaining consecrated elements after communion, given the health risks, you are encouraged to dispose of any remaining consecrated elements in a reverent manner, which may include returning them to the ground.

Update: 6 May 2022

All remaining requirements for vaccination for ministry generally, and for ministry with children and youth, have now been relaxed.

There are still requirements for vaccination for ministry with vulnerable people.

All people, regardless of vaccination status, are now able to take part in all ministries in the church. The only exception to this is ministries with vulnerable people (see below).

Home visits

Pastoral visits to a private home can be undertaken regardless of vaccination status. A minister or volunteer undertaking a home visit will need to disclose their vaccination status to the person receiving the visit, so that the person receiving the visit can make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the visit, and what other protections that person might want in place. A minister or volunteer undertaking a visit will need to comply with any requests for covid controls, which might include:

  • Physical distancing;
  • Hand sanitising; or
  • Wearing a mask,

amongst other things.

Vulnerable people

A vulnerable person is someone who:

  • is aged over 65 years
  • is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is aged over 50 years
  • is living with disabilities (those people who are National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants in receipt of high intensity supports)
  • has a pre-existing chronic medical condition - including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes, immune deficiency or other chronic diseases as advised by the person’s treating doctors.

It would be the choice and responsibility of the vulnerable person to disclose any of these factors. There is no need to collect data across your congregations on this.

For further detail see this document.

A minister or volunteer may only undertake ministry with a vulnerable person if that minster or volunteer is vaccinated. In some cases, it will be clear that a person is vulnerable (e.g. because of age). In other cases it might not be clear (e.g. because of underlying medical conditions). The minister or volunteer does not need to make enquiries about vulnerability – it will be the responsibility of the vulnerable person to make any vulnerability known.

Many ministries to vulnerable people will take place in a setting with specific rules around vaccination, e.g. aged care facilities and hospitals – a minister will need to abide by the rules of those organisations.

Vulnerable children

People under the age of 18 are generally not considered particularly vulnerable to covid. However, young people can still suffer severely adverse outcomes. Leaders in ministries with under 18s should provide sufficient opportunity for parents and carers to advise the team of any vulnerabilities. Ministries with under 18s should also communicate how the ministry will work to minimise the risk of transmission of covid, e.g. through the team all being vaccinated, through provision and use of hand sanitiser, through mask wearing, or through physical distance, as the case may be.

Why are these changes being made?

Even though case numbers are still high, the rate of hospitalisation and severe illness is lower than was expected, and so the impact of contracting covid is less severe than was feared. The government has also been relaxing restrictions in light of this and of the widespread incidence of covid in the community. The Diocese also notes that the duration of exposure in our ministries is generally less than in other settings, such as school or work settings.

How can I get assistance?

With this relaxation, there will be more responsibility on local ministries to manage the risk of transmission. If you need assistance, please contact the registry.

 

Update: 13 April 2022

The implementation group has decided to relax all remaining restrictions on general ministries, effective from 13 April 2022. This means that all clergy, church workers and church volunteers may undertake ministries in general regardless of vaccination status. This decision has been taken in light of the significantly lower levels of hospitalisation than anticipated.

Restrictions remain in place in respect of vulnerable people and those aged under 18 years (see below). Pastoral visiting in a person's home is now possible, but it is a requirement that the pastoral visitor disclose his or her vaccination status to the person receiving the visit prior to the visit. This is to empower those receiving a visit to make an informed choice about whether the visit should proceed.

The Diocese continues to strongly recommend that you get vaccinated and receive a booster vaccination, when eligible. This is the best way to reduce the risks of transmission of covid-19, as well as the severity of illness if you do catch the virus.

Vulnerable people

A vulnerable person is someone who:

  • is aged over 65 years
  • is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is aged over 50 years
  • is living with disabilities (those people who are National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants in receipt of high intensity supports)
  • has a pre-existing chronic medical condition - including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes, immune deficiency or other chronic diseases as advised by the person’s treating doctors.

It would be the choice and responsibility of the vulnerable person to disclose any of these factors. There is no need to collect data across your congregations on this.

For further detail see this document.

 

Children and young people aged under 18

At the moment, the restrictions on ministry to these people continue. However, we anticipate that these restrictions may be lifted for the start of term 2, depending on the progress of the current wave of infection. The settings are likely to move to a similar level to those for vulnerable people (see above).

It is also likely that ministries to children and young people will need to disclose whether or not all the leaders in the ministry are up to date with their vaccinations. This is an important element in enabling parents and carers to make decisions about the health risks for their children.

A ministry which includes a vulnerable young person (see the list of health matters above) will need to ensure that the leaders in that ministry are vaccinated. It would be worth preparing for these potential changes by:

  • Notifying parents and carers of the ministry's plans for term 2 - specifically with regard to the vaccination status of leaders
  • inviting parents, carers and young people to discuss any matters of concern with the ministry leadership.

Some sample text for communications can be found here.

We anticipate that this will help us to balance the desire to have ministry leadership opportunities open to all, while also addressing the need to continue to care for the vulnerable of all ages.

 

Previous updates - now superceded

Update: 22 March 2022

The Covid Roadmap restrictions for general ministry has been updated:

  1. to align with the relaxation of the masks mandate from State Government; and
  2. to remove the restriction on leading singing in the congregation.

There is no reference to masks anymore in the documents - keep following State Government rules. Please note that Public Health authorities continue to recommend the wearing of masks.

There is now no restriction on unvaccinated people leading singing in the congregation.

The implementation group has considered the restrictions for ministry with people under the age of 18, and has decided not to make any change at this time. We continue to follow the practice and policies of the Department of Education.

Update: 11 March 2022

As of 5pm tonight, facemasks are no longer mandatory in places of worship. However, Public Health does continue to recommend their use. Current information on government requirements for wearing masks can be found on the Tasmanian Government's coronavirus website here and also in a useful document they have produced here.

Update: 4 March 2022

Relaxation of some restrictions under phase 3 of the Roadmap

The Covid roadmap implementation group met on 3 March 2022, and has approved relaxation of some ministry restrictions for unvaccinated clergy, church workers, and volunteers. These changes take effect immediately.

What has changed?

  • restrictions on speaking roles in public worship services have been relaxed. There is now no restriction preventing people who are not fully vaccinated from preaching, leading a service, reading the bible or leading prayers.
  • requirements for smaller meetings involving the general population (e.g. staff and committee meetings, bible studies etc.) have been aligned with general public health measures in relation to wearing masks indoors and maintaining physical distancing. People who are not fully vaccinated should now be able to lead in these settings, but note the requirement for distancing and mask wearing.
  • restrictions related to other ministry settings connected with public worship (e.g. greeting, bookshops, communion etc) have also been relaxed. Please continue to observe the generally applicable public health requirements, such as distancing where practicable and mask wearing.

What restrictions remain in place?

The following restrictions are unchanged at present. The implementation group is continuing to monitor infection rates, hospitalisation rates and government public health advice and directions. These restrictions therefore remain under active consideration and continue in force for the time being. The continuing restrictions will prevent a member of clergy, a church worker or a volunteer who is not fully vaccinated from the following:

  • Leading singing, or any other singing role as part of the ministry team in public worship;
  • pastoral visits to a person's home
  • all ministries to children and young people (under 18s)
  • ministries with vulnerable people (see document for definition)

Why have these changes been made?

The implementation group has had regard to a number of factors, and has tried to balance a wide variety of factors, including:

  • the requirement to provide a safe workplace
  • the likelihood of transmission
  • the likely impact of infection
  • the background risk of infection from the community generally,
  • all available measures to reduce risk,
  • the cost and burden of these measures.

The factors that have persuaded us to set this new balance of restrictions at this time are:

  • the very high vaccination rate amongst the general population (aged over 12) and the increasing levels of vaccination in the 5-12 cohort
  • emerging data about the effect of vaccination on the spread and impact of the omicron variant - noting that those whose vaccinations are up to date are substantially less likely to spread the virus, and noting that vaccination provides very good protection for an individual from serious illness or death due to the virus
  • the lower than expected levels of hospitalisation and deaths from the present wave of covid-19
  • the changes to public health advice and restrictions for the general public
  • the continued requirements of the department of education for vaccinations for those working with children in a school setting.

Covid-19 FAQs

Previous Updates

Update: Friday 7 January 2022 (revised Tuesday 11 January)

New Restrictions to be applied from Sunday 9th January 2022

With the increased incidence of Covid-19 cases, including community transmission of Covid-19, in Tasmania phase 2a - Ministries with Children and phase 3 - Public and Group Ministries have been triggered according to our Diocesan Covid Roadmap. The below documents outline ministries that may only be undertaken in person by clergy, church workers, or volunteers, who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with a vaccine approved for use in Australia by the TGA, unless all the conditions for an exception apply. Where exceptions apply, ministry may occur in person by clergy, church workers, or volunteers who are not fully vaccinated.  The Diocese has adopted the government definition of 'fully vaccinated' being two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine approved for use in Australia by the TGA.  However, encouragement would be given to obtain a booster shot at the earliest opportunity once eligible to do so.

In every case, ministries can be undertaken remotely (online meetings or phone calls) regardless of vaccination status.

Phase 2a - Ministries with Children document found here. (link removed)

Phase 3 – Public and Group Ministries document found here. (link removed - superseded)

Risk Matrix (workplace - vaccinated and unvaccinated) document found here.

 

Friday 10 December 2021

A letter from the Registrar can be found here on learning to live with Covid-19 in Tasmania. The Roadmap for the reopening of Tasmania on 15 December 2021 can be found here.

 

Update: Monday 20 December 2021

Masks Mandatory in public indoor spaces (including churches)

The Director of Public Health has mandated the wearing of masks in public indoor spaces from 12:01am on Tuesday 21 December. This requirement applies to all our churches, church halls, op shops and other buildings to which the public have access. It does not apply to private residences (e.g. rectories).

The details of the requirements are available at the Tasmanian Government's Coronavirus website. You should note the breadth of the requirement, and the exceptions that are available.

The following exceptions are likely to be relevant for our work:

  • Outdoors - unless attending a large event (>1000 participants).
    Outdoor church events are likely to be unaffected by the mandate. This opens opportunities for morning tea, lunch or other activities. Please note that public health authorities continue to recommend mask wearing outdoors, especially if physical distancing is impracticable.
  • Working, volunteering or studying alone in an indoor space and there is no one else in that space - you must put on a mask if another person enters the space.
    This will be relevant to our office spaces.
  • Consuming food, drink or medicine – replace your mask as soon as you are finished.
    Relevant for the practicalities of receiving communion and/or enjoying morning tea after a service.
  • Clear enunciation, or visibility of the mouth, is essential as part of your employment or training.
    This will be highly relevant to us in church worship settings. Those who need to speak in church (preaching, reading scripture etc) may remove their mask to do so. Those who lead the singing (including in a choir) will likewise be able to remove their masks during the singing. Remember to observe physical distancing. Congregational singing is permissible with a mask on.
  • Children aged under 12.
  • Those with an exemption from a doctor or the Director of Public Health.

The onus to wear a mask is on the individual, not the organisation. You should publicise the requirement to wear a mask (poster resources are available here), and remind people where necessary. However, you are not required to police mask requirements.

 

Covid-19 Safety Plans and Outbreak/Case Management Plans

Please take some time this week to review and update your Covid-19 Safety plan.

You can review the plan that you developed in 2020, adding the necessary new information using this template. If you would like to start from scratch, you can use this template for a new plan.

Please also take the time to work through the development of an Outbreak/Case Management Plan. A template can be found here.

Please send a copy of both plans to registry@anglicantas.org.au for our records.

 

Other public health rules and guidance

Other public health rules (from May 2021) and guidance remain in force - see below for a reminder of these matters from our Diocesan Medical Officer.


 

Revised Public Health Guidelines for Tasmania (May 2021)

1. CHECK-IN TAS APP

Use of this App is now a legal requirement for many places of public concourse, including churches.

Anyone aged 16 years or older who will be in a church or related building for any amount of time is required to register using the Check-in Tas app. If a smart phone is not available to register a person, then a manual record can be made, and should be retained for 28 days.

You have to do your best to encourage or assist people to register using the app. However, if a person refuses to register then any legal consequences fall on that individual. You do not need to refuse entry, although you are entitled to do so if you wish.

 

2. GATHERINGS

Revised regulations for gatherings are:

  • Indoors standing/socialising: limited to no more than 250 persons, including children, or to one person per 2 square metres, whichever is the lesser number. This would include church foyers, halls and meeting spaces.
  • Indoors seated: limited to no more than 250 persons, or up to 100% of seating capacity, whichever is the lesser. This includes most churches. In this situation clergy, staff and assistants can be additional to these limits.

 

3. COVID-SAFE PLANNING

Each meeting venue must continue to have a COVID Safety Plan and a COVID Contact Person responsible for this plan.

The Safety Plan should continue to include a cleaning plan for regular sanitising of surfaces likely to be touched, such as door handles and edges, chair backs, light switches, microphones, etc

Each venue should provide for each attendee to sanitise their hands upon entering.

Each venue must display signage advising people to stay home if they have symptoms of respiratory infection such as cough, sore throat, runny nose or fever, and to observe 1.5 metre social distancing where possible.

 

Specific risks in the Anglican Church setting:

Singing and sharing in communion are two higher risk activities which are important parts of our Anglican tradition.  These are, however, activities where there is a greater risk of aerosol transmission of COVID 19.

1. Singing

Congregational

Congregation members should be reminded to remain at home if they have respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, runny nose or fever.

Adequate ventilation should be in place to allow airflow through the church or meeting centre.

Consideration can be given to limiting the time spent singing during services, either in number or length of hymns and songs.

 

Choirs

Several epidemiological case studies have shown that infected choir members have transmitted COVID 19 to congregational members. Steps can be taken to reduce this risk of spread.

Choirs facing a congregation should stand at least 2 metres away from the audience, but preferably further away than this. Choirs should preferably stand in a semi-circle only one row deep, with 1.5 metre spacings between choristers.

If more than one row of choristers is planned, then there should be a minimum of 1.5 metres between rows of singers.

Choristers should avoid sharing sheet music, pens, etc. with each other.

 

2. Celebration of Holy Communion

Both surface contact spread and aerosol spread of COVID 19 need to be considered when planning the administration and reception of the elements.

One of three forms of distribution are recommended:

  1. Wafers pre-infused with wine (a drop of wine is placed on the wafer and left to dry prior to the service). Distribution as normal with the words: The Body and Blood of Christ keep you in eternal life.
  2. Wafers and individual cups of wine or juice, distributed in the normal manner, with separate words for the bread and the wine.
  3. Pre-packaged wafer and juice, distributed to the seats (by servers with sanitised hands), the bread and wine being consumed in unison with the words being said from the front.

The following points should be taken into consideration:

  • The common cup should not be used except by the celebrant alone.
  • There is no need for communicants to sanitise their hands before receiving.
  • Prior to distribution of the elements, the celebrant may consider using the words of distribution to the whole congregation rather than individually and in close proximity to each communicant.
  • Where possible, communicants should be encouraged to observe 1.5 metre spacing when moving to, whilst at, and when returning from, the communion rail.
  • The celebrant and those assisting with the distribution should either sanitise their hands before distributing the elements or use a pair of tongs to distribute. The use of gloves is not required.

 

Future Restrictions:

Service leaders need to be aware that Public Health directions for gatherings are likely to change if community spread of COVID 19 is detected in Tasmania, and should be ready to change service plans at short notice to comply with any further Public Health directives as they are issued. Check the Tasmanian Government COVID 19 website for current information.

https://www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/keeping-yourself-safe/gatherings-density-and-physical-distancing

 

Dr Richard Lord
27/5/2021

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